Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Akron U Women's committee strikes back

When the University of Something began its three-month $900,000 TV advertising program with the slow-motion theme asking '"Are you out there?",  the new regime's gurus didn't count on an uprising from  some important folks who are out there and not at all pleased by the game plan.

The latest reaction came from the University of Akron's Women's Committee, a long time support group that informed  UA's rebranding  deep thinkers that it would no longer volunteer financial assistance to the school. The source of the group's anger is team Scarborough's scheme to demote Akron's name from references to the school.

The idea reached an absurd  new  level  when a front-office guy said the marching band uniforms would replace the big "A"  with a "Z" on the hats.   Nowhere does the name Akron appear. To make the transitions look even worse to the Women's Committee, it had recently given the school $11,000  for the marchers' new raincoats and bags.

No one was more aghast than Louise  Harvey, the women's committee president and former development director at E.J. Thomas Hall and arts programs.

She told me  Sunday she hasn't  received a personal response from President Scarborough nor anyone else on his team.  "And I don't think we will," she said, resignedly.

But she did say she's  heard from three "important donors" who were withdrawing their financial support.  "I'm hoping that others will step forward," she said.

 In a letter signed by 80 members  to  Scarborough,   Gov Kasich  and titled state education officials, as well as lawmakers, Harvey said her committee has been "deeply concerned" about the changes under way at the University. She said  the committee is "most distressed by the  proposed rebranding of  the University of Akron to Ohio's Polytechnic University".

"The University of Akron is not an institution that needs to be 'rebranded' or recreated to make it better," the letter said.  It forcefully noted that  "the elimination of The University of Akron name is an egregious affront to the Band and donors."

Responding to the media, but not to the committee,  it was Larry Burns' turn to stifle the dissent.   He's the school's new vice president of advancement,  of all things,  that arrived at UA from Toledo as a comfy entitlement  for Team Scarborough.

Burns was keen on rolling out such board room jargon as "valuable marketing tools"' and "distinctive positioning" of the University as "Ohio's Polytechnic University" as the path to UA's bright future.

But, Sir, it ain't working out that way as you erode the school's public base. As long as we're talking about an academic place, I would turn to  the great Italian poet, Petrarch, who perceptively wrote many years ago:

"The climax of all evils is when a man, rooted in some false opinion, grows fatally persuaded that his course is right."

Will Petrarch still be "out there" in UA's passion for  Ohio's  Polytechnic University.  


grewupinakron said...

A member of a national UA alumni group says the name change is slated to go into effect in January 2016.

kh said...

Has anyone noticed that the current regime has a "strategy" that involves nothing much more than marketing schemes and the budget? Certainly a proper attention to the budget is necessary for any organization. But here, the emphasis seems to be on increasing enrollment because of the impact on the budget and increasing retention because of its impact on the budget. What we never hear is that financial issues are only important in order to support the ostensible mission of a university - the education of students and the furtherance of knowledge for the public good. This administration have sold their souls to external marketing consultants who have convinced them that nothing more is necessary for the good of the university than the application of the right flavor-of-the-month marketing techniques. Thus we have rebranding initiatives, inane (and expensive) video commercials, hiring of non-academic pseudo "stars" from corporations to lead undefined new programs. The Akron name is thought to connote some sort of rustbelt hicksville and therefore must be jettisoned. The football program is a sacred cow because of its importance for marketing, ignoring all evidence to the contrary. No one, ever, talks about building up academic programs and employing excellent faculty in order to accomplish the historical true mission of an academic entity. All objections or questions can be deflected simply by applying the proper spin.

Create a Great Public University by becoming such. It can't be done by manipulating public opinion through advertising techniques by agencies who are better suited for Nike and American Apparel.

Mary Nice said...

Well said Mr. Zaiden.